Digital Engineering

Digital Engineering is a collaborative way of working, using digital processes to enable more productive methods of planning, designing, constructing, operating and maintaining our assets.

In 2018, KiwiRail  embarked on a significant portfolio of capital work designed to bring transformational change to New Zealand’s rail network. To successfully deliver this portfolio and to support the growth of the wider business, and the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry as a whole, KiwiRail pioneered new ways of working that recognised the importance of continuous improvement in how it operates.

The Digital Engineering Programme vision recognises the important role KiwiRail plays in the New Zealand AEC industry and the programme seeks to Pioneer KiwiRail’s digital journey to transform the industry.

In early 2019, KiwiRail began a digital engineering pilot to support the delivery of its capital projects portfolio. Through the success of the pilot, KiwiRail has now developed a digital ‘way of working’ which uses the international standard ISO19650.  There are a number of resources on this page that will help when delivering KiwiRail projects.

Digital Engineering Objectives

Provide a place where people can access and consume data

This is known as the common data environment (or CDE) and is central to the success of any project.  The CDE provides a digital platform where design models, survey data, project documentation and other digital engineering and project outputs are hosted and federated across design and construction teams.  Click the link below to learn more about the KiwiRail CDE:

KiwiRail Common Data Environment

Reduce risks during the construction phase

One of the areas in which KiwiRail has been able to make significant gains with digital engineering is in reducing the occurrence of clashes and issues during the construction phase of its projects.

Create a rich and accurate as-built record of the asset

Using 3D models and data, KiwiRail is re-thinking how project teams normally deliver information. On a traditional project, the as-built record is only produced at the end of the job. Using digital engineering, KiwiRail is instead requiring as-builts to be provided monthly as part of the payment claim process. This shows KiwiRail’s suppliers the value that data holds for the organisation.

Increase efficiency in the way we work

By moving the projects to a data-centric way of working, KiwiRail has built a foundation that innovation can grow from. One example of this is KiwiRail’s award-winning digital shields. These help protect rail workers and infrastructure, while reducing the impact on passengers as works are being carried out. Read about them here.


A forward-looking, digital snapshot of Plimmerton Station, which is undergoing an upgrade.

A concept design for one of two new Interislander ferries that are due to enter service in 2025 and 2026.

Passenger Deck Eight v2


To support the digital delivery of projects, KiwiRail has developed a digital engineering framework. Version 4 of the DE Framework is segmented into a suite of documents. This enables specific technical information to be covered in a specific document, for the right audience.
This diagram outlines the suite of framework documentation available to download via the links below.

Doc Structure Landscape
IMG 0235

2021 Engineering Innovation Award for the digital component of the Trentham to Upper Hutt rail duplication project.


The Trentham to Upper Hutt double-tracking project was part of KiwiRail’s digital engineering pilot. The lessons from this project have helped form the basis for KiwiRail’s digital way of working, which is now being adopted across the capital works portfolio.
The benefits of digital technology for KiwiRail, and potentially for communities, range from improved productivity and efficiency to better safety and sustainability outcomes.

Already, our investment in digital innovation is paying off. In July 2021, KiwiRail and its partners Downer and Aurecon won Engineering New Zealand’s Innovation Award, for the digital technology used in the Trentham to Upper Hutt double-tracking (T2UH) project. Then in September 2021 the project team were awarded the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors Innovation Award for their collaborative approach, digital innovations, and digital shields which were used during the works to protect people and machines in the rail corridor.
For more information about the awards take a look at the links below:

Engineering NZ 2021 Innovation ENVI

RICS 2021 Innovation Award

In August, the Trentham to Upper Hutt project also made it as a finalist in the 2021 Australasian Rail Industry Awards, to be announced in November.